FOXBORO, Mass. — On Thursday night, the Patriots and Minnesota Vikings will meet for the first time since 2018, when New England earned a 24-10 win at Gillette Stadium.
There’s a good chance that nothing that winds up happening in the rematch will be remotely as entertaining as what transpired late in the previous matchup.
During the fourth quarter, then-Vikings running back Latavius Murray was awarded a first down after a short run on fourth-and-1. Bill Belichick believed otherwise and threw a challenge flag, but not before safety Patrick Chung went to the ground due to an “injury.” Vikings wideout Adam Thielen, believing the Patriots were trying to buy themselves extra time to look over additional replays, then started barking at Belichick in protest. The Patriots coach returned the favor, with multiple players and coaches at his back.
Check out these clips to jog your memory:
Belichick and Thielen took different approaches after the game when asked about the incident.
When jokingly asked whether he and Thielen simply were exchanging “holiday greetings,” Belichick replied, “Yeah, pretty much.” But Thielen went into greater detail.
“Obviously, I’ve gotta keep my cool,” Thielen told reporters. “You know, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he’s done. I just thought it was interesting timing for a guy to go down, when it was a close play that could have been reviewed. So for me, I just lost my emotions.
“I just thought the play was cheap. I wasn’t directing it toward him. I just thought the play was cheap. But like I said, I let my emotions get the best of me, because it’s a smart football play. If you are in that situation, why not? It’s not cheating, because there’s no rule against it, from a guy going down. I don’t know if he was hurt or not; he might’ve been hurt. That’s fine … just interesting timing for a guy to go down when it’s a close play.”
Thielen added: “He can hate me all he wants, and I’m still going to be the same person I am. I’m going to try to go out and do my best, and I’m going to try to compete every play.”
However, Belichick changed his tune a day later during a WEEI appearance.
“I have a lot of respect for Thielen,” Belichick said. “He’s a great player. I don’t even really remember what happened. He’s a great player and it was around that fourth down call. I have a lot of respect for him and the way he plays the game and what he’s accomplished.”
Interestingly, Thielen was asked about the incident a couple of months ago during a conversation with Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. His comments were part of a larger story on Thielen’s fiery nature and trademark competitiveness.
“It was definitely over the top,” Thielen said. “It honestly got to me because two plays later I dropped a ball. I was getting past that threshold.”
That brings us to Tuesday, when Belichick was asked about Thielen before the Patriots’ only practice of the week.
“Yeah, he’s another (good player),” Belichick said. “They move him around a lot too because they move (Justin) Jefferson. (K.J.) Osborn is mainly in the slot but not always. So, yeah, a big kid, big target. Certainly, Jefferson attracts a lot of coverage and that opens things up for Thielen, Osborn, (T.J.) Hockenson, (Dalvin) Cook, their running game, you name it.
“So, they’re a well-balanced offense and Thielen makes a lot of good, competitive tough catches. Strong kid.”
When prompted to comment on how “fiery” Thielen is, Belichick didn’t take the bait.
“Yeah,” he said.
We’ll see whether the Patriots and Vikings provide a worthy sequel when the two teams kick off from U.S. Bank Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving night.